Posts Tagged ‘social entrepreneurship’

United Nations adopts resolution in support of social entrepreneurship

Break out the bubbly in every country, in any language. Here comes a New Year’s Resolution that will resonate with all CausePlanet readers. We can collectively raise our glasses and toast! By a vote of 129 to 31, The United Nations just adopted (Dec.7) a resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” that will encourage all member states to increase support for entrepreneurial endeavors by reducing financial, policy and regulatory barriers that inhibit the growth of small and mid-size businesses worldwide. For entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs everywhere, this is great news.

The resolution recognizes what many of us live and breathe every day: the important contribution entrepreneurship can make toward sustainable development by creating jobs and driving economic growth and innovation, while in many ways, it improves social conditions and confronts environmental challenges. Importantly, it stresses the positive role entrepreneurship plays in driving job creation and expanding opportunities for all, including for women and youth. Sensibly, it urges a coordinated and integrated approach, involving all stakeholders, including civil society, academia and the private sector, while recognizing the importance of partnerships with the private sector. Entrepreneurship was acknowledged to play an important role in generating employment and investment; developing new technologies and innovative business models; and enabling high, sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. Ultimately, it was recognized that non-governmental stakeholders (like us!) are the main drivers of entrepreneurship.

My perspective on the resolution—social entrepreneurship

I was invited to address the merits of the resolution from a social entrepreneurial perspective. I chose to illustrate the need for support, nurturing and empowerment of the social side of the equation by explaining (and showing a video of) the work of Albina Ruiz. Albina is a Peruvian who built a community-based solid waste management system that plays an increasingly important role in improving sanitation and health conditions in Peru and other countries in Latin America. I specifically chose Albina’s story because every stage of the waste management cycle has created a network of employment and income-generating enterprises that integrates business and social value throughout the entire process, exactly what I thought the resolution’s intent should address. I was very familiar with her story because I included her story in a chapter in my book, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Around the World (Wiley, April 2012).

Near and dear to my heart, the resolution also focuses on the value of teaching entrepreneurial skills at all levels of education, ensuring the full and equal participation of women and girls, and encourages entrepreneurship education through skills development, capacity building, training programs and business incubators. It goes one step further and acknowledges the role of entrepreneurship in enabling youth to turn their creativity, energy and ideas into business opportunities that help facilitate their entry into the labor market.

Now that’s a resolution that really rings in the New Year!

For additional information about the resolution and what it hopes to accomplish, read my article that appeared in the Opinion section of on December 6.

See also:

Page to Practice book summary of Rippling

Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution


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You have the power to be a changemaker

Though your tax status may read “not-for-profit,” you’re running a business where the community must profit in social ways. The product you’re selling is change. But how much social change are you really creating? Our rapidly changing world has experienced progress economically, politically and socially. However, author Beverly Schwartz argues while progress mitigates some problems, it exacerbates others. Our planet requires more sophisticated solutions that are produced by effective organizations in the social sector.

Your business models must be relevant and every program clearly connected to outcomes that matter. Whether you are part of a large nonprofit or small one-person agency, you have the power to be a changemaker. Just take a look at the world’s small but mighty examples in Schwartz’s book, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World.

The five sections in Schwartz’s book represent the five ripples in the pond of poverty, inequity and inadequate access to opportunity. The changing system, inspiration, innovation, and local and global impact converge to create what Schwartz calls virtuous cycles of social benefit that begin when people themselves become agents of change. These change agents influence others to do the same. “They set off perpetuating waves of motion that convey transformation both vertically and horizontally now and into the future,” says Schwartz.

Schwartz found all the social entrepreneurs she interviewed for her book possess four inherent qualities: purpose, passion, pattern and participation.

Purpose: These individuals put society above personal interests and firmly focus on fulfillment of their chosen role. They may take many roads to get there but the goal is sacrosanct.

Passion: Schwartz finds passion and purpose are inextricably linked together. Passion connects to the spirit and relates to strength of character, determination and connection to others. She further adds real strength lies not in the physical realm but in an indomitable spirit.

Pattern: These entrepreneurs’ patterns become models or guides for others to follow. Their patterns differ greatly, which affirms their individuality or the nature of an entrepreneur. Schwartz likes to say these people “build a better mousetrap” while at the same time eradicating the need for traps altogether by decreasing the population of mice.

Participation: Changemakers are often unanticipated leaders, says Schwartz. Whether they perceive themselves to be leaders or not, their ability to influence people and have them believe, follow and join is an attribute that is completely natural and a necessary component for impact. It is the quality that attracts involvement and eventually morphs into civic engagement.

Gather inspiration from this list and look around your organization. Do you have a changemaker in your midst who’s ready to take the next step? How can you build on their qualities and spread the spirit of innovation?

See also:

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World
The Search for Social Entrepreneurship
Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World
Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

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More great answers from social entrepreneurial guru

We couldn’t help but excerpt more of our Page to Practice™ interview with Paul Light. His answers to our questions about his recent book, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship are insightful, honest and funny.

CausePlanet: One of the central focuses of your book is the four components of social entrepreneurship: 1) Entrepreneur, 2) Idea, 3) Opportunity, and 4) Organization. Which of the four do you think is the most elusive for existing nonprofit organizations and why?

Light: Organizational excellence is the most elusive, actually, because it is the least interesting. Organizations are seen as obstacles to creativity; so is management. Nobody wants to be a bureaucrat after all. But organizations contribute mightily to success, and can undermine even the most powerful idea. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to scale, or grow, socially-entrepreneurial organizations to super-size, but not enough about how to create organizations that innovate naturally. Social entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be a 24/7 battle against the odds; it can be a natural product of healthy organizations that encourage collaboration, creativity, etc. A lot of entrepreneurial organizations say they encourage trial AND errors, but when the mistakes are made, it becomes trial FOR error.

CausePlanet: Despite the fact that you present a robust amount of research to date on the topic of social entrepreneurship as well as conduct a study of your own, what is the biggest question you believe still exists?

Light: How do we solve urgent threats faster?

CausePlanet: If an organization seeks to be more socially entrepreneurial, what are the preliminary steps toward that goal?

Light: I’m a big believer in exploring the future. We rely too much on single trend lines extrapolated from the immediate past—we call that “muddling through” in political science; we adjust our trend lines using some increment of past experience. If the current recession has shown us anything, it is that the past is a very poor predictor of the future. Too much going on out there.

Not surprisingly, I’m also a big fan of research. Unfortunately, research is seen as an inconvenience for social entrepreneurship. Yes, we talk about measurement, logic chains, social rates of return, data-driven government, outcomes, and results management, etc. But too many investors view researchers as rather like babies on an airplane—sometimes cuddly, often exhausting, potentially dangerous, and certainly irritating if they challenge the conventional wisdom. We need to be more open to research even when it hurts—we have to be able to accept the truths about our programs, our endeavors. I’m trying to do that with my own work. I was wrong about many of the assumptions I made about social entrepreneurship back in 2006 (was it really that long ago?), and have been updating since.

I’m also a big fan of infrastructure. I like Winston Churchill’s quote about it. Here’s what he said of Great Britain’s victory in the 1899 Sudan River War: “Victory is the beautiful, bright-colored flower. Transport is the stem without which it could never have blossomed.” The same might be said of any social impact. Yes, there are great heroes; yes, there are great battles; and yes, courage is essential, as well as a good battle plan. But if you can’t get the supplies in the right hands at the right time with the right tools, you’re not going to succeed. Mundane as it seems, supply-chain management may have as much to do with ridding the world of Malaria as the vaccines we are working to develop. No syringe, no vaccination.

Learn more about Light’s book, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship, read the full summary by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, find this summary at the CausePlanet summary store.

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The lost and found: Social entrepreneurship

The Search for Social Entrepreneurship examines the power of social entrepreneurship to accomplish large-scale systemic change within the nonprofit sector. Author Paul C. Light takes on the behemoth task of synthesizing differing views and research outcomes to arrive at a consensus so entrepreneurialism can be studied and replicated for the greater good.

Despite the fact that absolute certainty about what constitutes a highly entrepreneurial organization is elusive, Light successfully teases out useful similarities among researchers’ findings. He does so by identifying four basic components of social entrepreneurialism. In the end, the reader gains a collective view of what highly entrepreneurial organizations look like and how they behave.

Below is an excerpt from a delightful Q & A we had with author Paul Light in our March Page to Practice™:

CausePlanet: In your book you conclude that highly socially entrepreneurial organizations portray internal practices such as lower emphasis on strategic planning and undiversified revenue streams. These descriptors seem antithetical to highly performing organizations that have a diversified funding base and good planning systems in place. How would you turn these conclusions into instructive guidance for aspiring entrepreneurial organizations?

Light: It’s the founder’s syndrome we often talk about. Once the entrepreneur has the idea, why should he, she, or they look for input from inside or outside the organization? They have THE idea after all. They also have less interest in strong governance, I think. The board exists to serve the idea—I’m a big believer in strong boards, but agree that micro-management is off limits. But an occasional conversation about what the entrepreneur might do better is strictly required. So is the social exploring I talked about earlier in this interview. The more diversity in this picture, the better. In fact, the latest research suggests that “collaborative creativity” by diverse groups produces more breakthroughs than “garage innovation” by lone wolves. And it is more effective in reducing dead-ends. In baseball terms, collaborative teams produce more hits, extra bases, runs, and homeruns (“going yard” as Detroit Tigers fans like me call it), and they also produce fewer strikeouts and errors.

CausePlanet: What advice do you have for nonprofit leaders who would like to hire more entrepreneurial staff members or train the team they have? What characteristics should they be looking for or trying to develop?

Light: Creativity is the key, I think. Once you find someone with faith, look for creativity, inspiration, passion, and hope (which I view as a deep form of optimism—we all have optimism at some level, whether about that dinner we just put in the oven (or microwave in my case), the movie we’re about to watch, our favorite sports team, or the opera. But hope is something more durable—it resides in our being, a sense that what we are doing will add up somehow to a significant change in the world.

Can we teach people to be more creative? Absolutely. Set aside some training dollars for your team to do just about anything that stirs their imagination—a cooking class, pottery workshop, a yoga class (though I rather prefer an elliptical myself), a painting course, you name it. Too much of our training is tightly circumscribed—accountants take accounting classes (and we don’t want them to be creative with the numbers, but we do want them to see how those numbers are part of the creative discipline), leaders take leadership courses, etc. We can do better. Some of the best training classes for innovation involve a drawing pad and a charcoal pencil. Believe it.

Learn more about Light’s book, Search for Social Entrepreneurship, or our Page to Practice™ book summary.

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